While I really wish we could move along from this, the obvious is happening and it is what some of us having been saying all along. It seems like Dohrmann exaggerated many facets of his infamous Sports Illustrated article. Dohrmann wanted to "get UCLA" for recruting violations and found none. He then went after Reeves Nelson and Drew Gordon for their bad antics which he proceeded to exaggerate to justify the many months he spent investigating UCLA.
The lawsuit further claims the S.I. writer has a longstanding beef with UCLA because he "publicly attacked UCLA's Baron Davis for driving a black 1991 Chevy Blazer, which Dohrmann publicly claimed had been purchased in violation of NCAA rules." NCAA investigators later shot down those allegations.
Reeves, like Gordon recently, is not claiming to be an angel. But is raising serious questions about the journalism used by Dohrmann. Remember Dohrmann had few named sources in the article other than an embittered fired former student manager (emphasis mine).
But Nelson's high-powered entertainment lawyer Keith Fink says they can prove Dohrmann "recklessly and negligently failed to investigate the claims in the article." The lawsuit includes declarations from 18 UCLA players and ex-players who deny every allegation about Nelson.
In fact, former teammate Tyler Honeycutt says, "Nelson did not pile my clothes on my bed, and he certainly did not urinate on my clothes." According to the suit, most of the players say Dohrmann never contacted them -- and the 2 who were contacted denied the allegations.
This is a situation where no one wins. But if what Reeves says is even partially true, I hope that Dohrmann is never allowed near UCLA again nor ever to report on UCLA matters again. At a minimum it seems Dohrmann violated the journalism code of ethics by not contacting people involved. It is a heavy hurdle for Reeves to win in court as the lawyers can discuss below, but the fact is Dohrmann struck out on his main purpose (finding recruiting violations).
As a result it looks like at a minimum Dohrmann exaggerated other facts or, worst case, just fabricated stories to justify his time wasted chasing a non-story at UCLA.
UPDATE: Some highlights from the players statements. Ironically from SI News story:
Former player Tyler Honeycutt, who was described in the article as one of Nelson's victims, confirms in his statement that Nelson never urinated on his bed and clothes, as mentioned in the article. Trapani, who has since graduated, says Nelson did not go "out of his way'' to step on his chest as Trapani lay on the ground during a practice drill. Both Honeycutt and Trapani say they were never contacted by Dohrmann about the alleged incidents.
Former players Alex Schrempf and Blake Arnet said in their statements that they were both contacted by the writer, and they told him that his version of events was incorrect. Neither of them was quoted in the article.
The lawsuit says that none of the 18 players contributed any of the anonymous quotes in the article, and that all of them have confirmed that the bulk of the writer's claims about Nelson are false.
More denials from the fishwrap:
•That Nelson gave Drew Gordon a black eye during a scuffle at a teammate's apartment. "We have never had a fight, not at a teammate's apartment or anywhere else, nor has Nelson ever given me a black eye from a fight or otherwise," Gordon said in his declaration.
•That Nelson urinated on roommate Tyler Honeycutt's bed and clothes on New Year's Eve 2009. "Nelson did not pile my clothes onto my bed … and he certainly did not urinate on my clothes. … Nelson played a minor college prank on me, throwing some Jolly Rancher candy and baby powder on my bed and flipping over the mattress when I left our dorm room," Honeycutt's statement said.
Update x2: USA Today is reporting that Reeves is asking for 10 million dollars from SI.
Former UCLA player Reeves Nelson is suing Sports Illustrated for $10 million, citing defamation, false light and intentional infliction of emotional distress over its recent article about problems in the school's basketball program.
The lawsuit filed Wednesday in Superior Court in Los Angeles names Time Inc. and writer George Dohrmann as defendants. The story titled "Not the UCLA Way" initially appeared Feb. 28 on the magazine's website and then in its March 5 print edition. Nelson also wants a retraction and public apology.
That's a lot of money. End understatement. This will get serious.
Reeves explains his part:
Nelson, an All-Pac-10 selection in 2010-11 who was suspended twice from the UCLA basketball team last season and eventually dismissed for conduct unbecoming of a UCLA basketball player, was quoted in the Sports Illustrated report saying, "On all that stuff, I have no trouble admitting that I lost control of my emotions sometimes."
The lawsuit, however, alleges that quote was in response to a question about non-violent incidents that resulted in Nelson getting dismissed from the team, such as when he openly laughed on the bench during a second-half collapse in a loss to Texas, refused to take part in team huddles during that game, missed a team plane for a flight to Hawaii and showed up late for team meetings.